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Not exactly human
CoverArtist: Fairies and fanciful creatures fill Meredith Dillman's fantasy artwork
"Phoenix Eyes" (painting, above), and "Watercolor Made Easy: Fairies and Fantasy" (book, right) by Meredith Dillman.

by Norma Smith Olson

Meredith Dillman spent hours drawing fairies and unicorns as a small child growing up in St. Cloud, Minn. "I would draw a picture and put in little word balloons and then ask my mom to write down what the characters were saying," she said. Her mom, an art teacher at nearby Cold Spring, encouraged her daughter's interest in fanciful imagery, which continued through high school and college, as she discovered comics and Japanese art.

Dillman has a BFA with an emphasis in illustration from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She works full time at her art, selling prints and collectibles on her website and at art fairs. Her paintings and illustrations have been published in books and games and licensed for products.

"I now combine my love of fairy tales and myth with a playful fusion of art nouveau style and inspiration from Japanese Ukiyo-e prints," Dillman wrote in her artist statement. She is inspired by Pre-Raphaelite artists, Japanese comics (anime), Victorian book illustrations and contemporary fantasy artists.

Illustrator and author
Dillman is the author of "Watercolor Made Easy: Fairies and Fantasy." In this handy guide she not only gives recommendations for the best tools of her trade-pencils and paintbrushes, paper types and watercolor paints, she succinctly explains color theory, figure drawing, perspective and composition. Included is a section on decision-making when it comes to drawing eyes.

"People are drawn to the face, and then to the eyes, because they are the most expressive part," Dillman said.

Dillman then moves into the depth of fantasy creativity-encouraging the artist to think about what kind of fairy or fanciful figure to draw. Should it be a dark fairy, wood fairy, flower fairy or elemental fairy? (She describes each type and their background characteristics.) Should it have wings? (What kind-natural elements like leaves? Insect or butterfly-like wings? Fire or ice, elemental-influenced wings? Or no wings at all?) What about the setting or environment?


Dillman's systematic approach breaks down the elements of creating a fantasy watercolor painting, letting beginning artists feel like they could follow her step-by-step instructions and paint their own fairies with fanciful settings.

'Phoenix Eyes'
"She's not exactly human," Dillman said about "Phoenix Eyes," this month's cover art. "She's a fairy, but she doesn't have wings. She is a kind of representation of nature spirits. She has feathers around her eyes." Dillman recalled finding a moth cocoon when she was young and watching it hatch. "It's similar to the moth in the painting," she said.

Dillman explores stories and myths from many cultures-Greek, Chinese, Japanese-as well as fantasy art techniques. "Watercolor has a long relationship with fairy tale and fantasy art that dates back to the 19th century," Dillman wrote in her book's introduction. "The vibrancy of the paint also makes it a great choice for [today's] manga-style art."

FFI: www.meredithdillman.com

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